Saturday, December 30, 2017

Bitcoin is quite a bit stupid ..

You’re saying to yourself,

“I wish I had bought Bitcoin a year ago, or even a month ago”

  • Bitcoin is one of the biggest scams to ever hit the internet. Yes, even more so than the Nigerian Prince wanting to send you part of his fortune. 

Bitcoin has zero value, and possibly even less considering how you can spend it. It also has no intrinsic value - you can neither sell it on the street or wear it or posses it in molded metal or cut gem form. It is neither antique nor backed by any amount of security. It also does not bear an interest rate. It cannot be collected like a toy or trading card and it’s history of who owned it isn’t visible.

It’s use and explanation is so convoluted that not even the most serious IT or hacker truly understands it. It was created in the underground by Satoshi Nakamoto. Here’s your biggest red flag. The creator just cashed out all the Bitcoin he owned. Ponder for a moment that a known hacker created a currency, and then just cashed out for millions. Bitcoin is headed for a complete crash - possibly even elimination.

Financial Investment Firm, Morgan Stanley on Bitcoin’s true value. “We remain unconvinced that Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency has any fundamental value and therefore, its price is largely driven by the supply and demand for the digital currency,” There is an infinite supply. Nothing has infinite demand. It’s kinda like stupidity personified. Stupidity is in infinite supply. Buying Bitcoin without understanding it is infinite stupidity.

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Movie Review ..

2017 Movie Review ...

2017 will go down as one of the worst box office years in recent memory - not because there were bad movies, but there weren’t a lot of great ones. There were so many movies that I didn’t want to see. IE Matt Damon’s Great Wall, Transformers: Dark Knight, War For The Planet Of The Apes, and Kingsman: Golden Circle, Fifty Shades Darker, XXX. The Fast & The Furious movies have become a see it on TV if it's on kida franchise to me, so I didn't see it either. Then there were movies that just ended up being awful despite hype and decent box office performance. 

There were some bright spots however.

Here are some movies that I saw this year ...

I’ll start off with the movies that were awful.

Atomic Blonde. I wanted this movie to be great. A female James Bond is how it was being promoted. Instead, it had a convoluted plot with unnecessary elements solely to push an R rating. It also had one of the most ridiculous endings in recent memory for a movie - adding 5 different twists in the last 20 minutes of the film. Don’t even bother with this movie even if it’s free on TV.

Logan. I’m a huge fan of Hugh Jackman. I love his version of Wolverine. However, this is the first time I was absolutely bored with the X-men franchise or watching any Marvel movie. The movie was ok, but I’d probably flip past it if I saw it was on TV.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I had been hyping this movie to myself and everyone that I know for years! It looked amazing. I love the visuals of Luc Besson (director) but this movie was near painful to sit through. Artistic? Yes. Visually stunning? Yes. But, story and actor chemistry? Negative numbers.

It. I realize that some reading this don’t like horror movies. I’m not a big horror movie person myself. I do enjoy reading Stephen King and I enjoy seeing the translations of his books into visual cinematography. The original TV miniseries is one of the best adaptations and translations of any author’s work ever made in my opinion. This modern twist on the tale is just hype. It wasn’t scary. It wasn’t well acted like you’ve heard and the clown - the centerpiece of the horror in the story - is downright stupid. In fact, I’d even say that this clown portrayal took away some of my fears of clowns that the original instilled. I ended up leaving the movie in the last 5 minutes it was so bad and I haven’t done that in years.

Mother! This movie is weird. It tries to be good. It was cast well. It’s just it’s director and writer - known for artsy films - tries too hard to be - ummmm - artsy.  

So-so movies:

The Star. This should have been a TV special with 30 minutes cut from it to add space for commercials. Good family movie, but kinda boring in places. Highlight: Kelly Clarkson’s portrayal of a weird lamb.

Kong: Skull Island. Good action. Good Special Effects. But just good; not great. Catch it on DVD or streaming for sure.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie. It was ok. Everything good is in the previews though.

Justice League. It was ok. It was worth it for the Wonder Woman scenes.

DownsizingNo twist. If you’ve seen the preview, you’ve actually seen all the movie minus the boring parts. You’ve also seen more in the previews than the actual movie as several scenes from the previews aren’t in the final cut.

It did bring up some interesting conversation.

Jumanji. A funny sequel that takes itself less seriously than the original. Okay. That’s about the best I can give this movie that I didn’t hate.

John Wick: Chapter 2. If you liked the first movie about a former hit man for hire getting revenge for thugs killing his dog -you’ll like this installment better.

Alien: Covenant.  I’m an Alien franchise fan and huge fan of director and writer Ridley Scott. This entry doesn’t disappoint.

Now, on to the bright spots:

The Greatest Showman

Good inspirational story that a family can watch together. Great visuals. Catchy musical numbers and decent story.

The only exception I take to the movie is that it’s historical fiction. Barnum was an odd looking man (unlike the model Hugh Jackman). He was a crooked person and swindler who later became the poster example of a crooked politician.

I was glad to suspend reality though for this musical. I definitely think this would make a fantastic broadway play. I felt like my movie price was a “twofor” - a good movie and a broadway play with a-list talent.

Beauty and The Beast (live action) - this was a perfect translation of an already perfect animated movie. I enjoyed every moment of it. I was very disappointed in the crowd that tried to destroy the experience with a made up “gay scene”. This is a family movie - well acted.

Wonder Woman. I have to admit, I was in love with Lynda Carter when I was young. I loved watching Wonder Woman and reruns. This movie was a perfect translation. I loved every moment of it. Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman was also one of few bright spots in the first Justice League installment that came out later in the year. I also personally think that my wife looks like Wonder Woman so that helps my like this movie as well. For the record, despite how you heard it pronounced, the correct pronunciation is GAL GUH DOT - not GUH DOE.

Coco. I love Pixar movies. I loved this movie too. I loved the justice in the afterlife this movie had. I loved the visuals. It was long on parts and the film tried too hard to delay the reveal of the twist. I think it’s a hard movie for children to sit patiently through. But, I still put this in my top 5 movies of the year.

Spider-Man Homecoming. This is the Spider-Man movie we’ve been waiting for. Finally a superhero movie that didn’t worry about a backstory. Finally, a superhero movie that put Micheal Keaton as a bad guy. I enjoyed every minute of this movie. I do think it earns a true PG-13 rating though and I’d highly suggest that you stick to that age suggestion before letting kids see this movie.

Murder On The Orient Express. Perfectly acted. Perfectly directed. Perfectly cast. This is a great take on the old Agatha Christie classic. This is a great family movie too - despite the title. 10 and above will love it.

Wonder. Beautiful story adaptation of a great book. Good family movie. Be prepared to cry.

The LEGO Batman Movie. I laughed constantly during this movie. I was pleasantly surprised at how creative and funny this movie was.

Blade Runner 2049. I’m not sure how it’s possible to outdo a cult classic movie, but this movie accomplished that. This movie was better than the original. It honored the original movie, but is a perfect standalone film. Stunning visuals. Great new story. Great political allegory. Perfect acting.

Honorable Mentions:

Thor: Ragnarock. Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Hella was amazing as was Jeff Goldblum’s Gamemaster. This was a fun and funny movie to see.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2. Better than the first. Funny. Adult humor. My only qualm with Marvel movies including The Gaurdians franchise - marketing to very young children - when the content is as close to Rated R as it can get. I think it’s funny and you definitely have to add context and character to the lines, but it’s embarrassing to me to be in the theater with 5-15 year olds - including my daughter and a sex or genitalia joke is cracked. Doesn’t really bother me, just in the back of my mind, I sigh.

I’m giving my movie of the year this year to Star Wars: The Last Jedi 

This ninth installment (chronologically) really transforms the narrative of the franchise and finally aims to take it into a new direction. It made me even more excited to see the next installment.

My full review is here:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Review: Star Wars Episode VIII½ The Last Jedi or Star Wars: The Crass Jedi

Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

(No spoilers)

This fanboy was clad head to toe Darth Vader. Darth Vader stocking cap ✔️. Vader T shirt ✔️ Vader underwear ✔️. Vader socks ✔️. Black New balance shoes and black sweatpants ✔️. Schnauzer in crate at home during movie viewing with Darth Vader hoodie ✔️

To me, that is the best element of all the Star Wars movies I’ve been to. It’s one of the few movie franchises where the experience in the theater is still the biggest part of the movie. Hearing everyone talk about the plot, characters, and past movies before the previews start builds you up even further.

I also like that you can be safe taking your entire family to a Star Wars movie (if they can handle intense action) ... as there’s no cursing - well - at least translated into an earth language. There’s romance but no bedroom scenes. There’s no nudity. There is artwork, beautiful designs, humor, and there’s always victory.

So, on to the review ...

I have a hard time ranking the individual installments because they are altogether - one story. I would however rank this episode, which is technically #9 chronologically - at the top. I will say that this part in the series represents a true break from the storytelling. The theme - amongst all characters is both verbally and emotionally stated throughout the movie ... “Let the past die.”

“Let the past die,” is a message to the fanbase more than a character arc though. While this movie brings back more cuteness in the franchise (and you are going to wish porgs were real and in your immediate cuddle after watching) - it also steps into more modern storytelling. The Last Jedi, like Rogue One, aim to show you that there are so many other characters that contribute to the plot. Just like in real life, a lot of times, the real heroes aren’t the ones recognized - meaning to say - sometimes - the same people always get recognized - almost as if that’s part of their role in life. This movie really goes to lengths to show that even the hated, even the cute but unimportant have a role. For instance, Chewbacca needing something to cling to after Han Solo being killed. He finds that bond - and in the most unlikely place - in a very heartwarming way. Rey, finds her place, by realizing that it doesn’t matter why you’re there, it matters what you’re doing WHILE you’re there.

As with all Star Wars allegory - there is the promise in redemption and life  lesson in pacing yourself towards your goals. Throughout The Last Jedi, the theme repeats as it has throughout ... your help is needed in the quickest manner possible, but don’t make decisions in haste because you seek revenge or recognition. 

A lot of reviews seem mixed. As, most of the movies outside the original trilogy have. Go into the movie knowing that you’ll be entertained - and that whether you’re an ardent fan or just an occasional moviegoer - Star Wars is always a fun ride!

I plan to see it at least one more time in theaters and will buy the video to add to my complete collection.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why you should(n’t) care about Net Neutrality ...

I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of coverage today on the topic of Net Neutrality being repealed by the Federal Communications Commission.

What is “Net Neutrality”?

In essence, it portends to be the level playing ground that will keep internet and communication companies competitive by not allowing them to charge more for competitive services or less for their own service.

Example: Charter cable couldn’t (under Net Neutrality regulation) charge a fee to stream Netflix nor could they do what’s known as zero-rate their own service. In other words, they’d have to penalize you or not penalize you for either service. There couldn’t be an imbalance.

What “Net Neutrality”  is NOT ...

Many are framing the argument that it’s the regulation that sticks it to the big corporations like Charter, Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon - that it’s the regulation that was put into place in 2015 by the Obama administration that was your defense - because dang it - these companies are evil and they have bad customer service and forget them!

Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with making evil companies better or any company competitive - like big guys (think Charter) vs small guys (think Northland Cable) in the market.

I used to be a heavy supporter for Net Neutrality. I admit I drank the kool-aid and I fought hard to keep my sugar rush of what I thought was freedom on the internet. I was told there’d be higher prices. I was told there’d be anti-competitive monopolies. Then, in 2014, Verizon did something rather odd. In a move to end their unlimited plans, they decided to limit specific streaming service Netflix for its users. Why? The biggest reason is that Verizon was trying to push its own streaming services up North. Verizon’s biggest cellular customers were also starting to complain about network congestion. So, Verizon made up this ridiculous restriction on their network which wasn’t even at 85% capacity in most areas - in an aim to publicly pronounce “measures to please our customers”.

I thought, “Evil Verizon, I moan git em!” I put a lot of advocacy into fighting FOR Net Neutrality."

Then, a good friend and trusted politician posed this question to me,

“How can you be against socialism, yet for socialistic internet?”

He explained that “a level playing ground” in economics, sociopolitical ideals, or the internet is just the last word to fill in the blank of this sentence...

“Socialism aims to make the playing field level for all people in regards to _______________.”

He asked me to think about that for a week and then call him back.

I’m the kind of guy that is stubborn about facts and sticking to those stubborn facts. However, even with my arsenal of good reasons to support Net Neutrality, I didn’t have an answer for him.

Then, Trump was elected. With him came a new appointment to the FCC named Ajit Pai.

Pai promised that there’d be little to no enforcement of Net Neutrality rules. Immediately, AT&T offered a new unlimited wireless plan to compete against T-Mobile who had been gaining subscriber ground for a few quarters. Then Verizon brought back their unlimited plan. Then AT&T one upped them all by giving a steep discount on DirecTV and giving away AppleTV devices to stream TV and offering free wireless to WiFi connections (tethering) - services that were usually $40 each to add.

My monthly AT&T bill went down over $100 and I was getting many more perks and services.

T-mobile started offering free Netflix and free streaming of Netflix. Last week they announced that they too will start offering a TV streaming service soon - one that will outprice AT&T.

To make my point - all I see is competition. All the talk about there being anti-competitiveness is just that - talk. 

Whatever did we do before 2015 (before Net Neutrality was enacted)? Was the "internet broken" before 2015?

Friday, December 08, 2017

Rustomers: Rus's IT Customer Tales

My name is Rus.

In a former life, I repaired computers - more specifically - Apple computers. From time to time, I still dabble in IT work as a side income.

I say the words, "former life" almost literally as I feel I may have died - several times - come back only to be able to relate these stories to you  ... much like the character in the TV series "Forever". (preview below)

Here is one of many insane stories of customer service nightmares I've had to deal with over the years. I'll add to this story in the weeks to come.

  In the times before Apple Stores were within a reasonable driving distance, I was in pretty high demand. Also, in some cases, certain people, for certain reasons didn't want to go into a large retail establishment - especially a shopping mall.

I used to work in a small computer repair shop as
"The Apple Guy" ← that was kinda my unofficial title.

One day, a tall, rail framed, young white male with a scar through his left eyebrow, diamond stud earrings, a backwards hat that said "Brooklyn" written in graffiti-style cursive above the plastic sizing snaps, acid washed jeans about mid-thigh, jockey underwear showing, a sports jersey style shirt that said "00" and "Brooklyn Dodgers", and a very large gold chain around his neck with what seemed to be a solid gold and diamond studded emblem that said "BOSS" around his neck - came into the shop to ask for a diagnosis of his Apple laptop that wasn't booting.

I should stress that he asked for a diagnosis - and specifically said several times to call him before I made any repairs. The diagnosis was a standard $35 dollar charge - of which - the balance was applied to your final bill should you have our shop repair your computer. I confirmed that the unit was not booting in front of him while he turned the laptop towards me over the customer counter.

I don't want to make this sound stereotypical - but it was. This guy had bloodshot eyes. He had what looked to be heroin bruise holes and belt/tourniquet marks on his arms. Every sentence he spoke began with, "Here it is" like he was about to break dance for me and every sentence ended with a hip hop style, "you know what I'm sayin' yo"

He filled out his paperwork with only a first name and a phone number. 

The first name he wrote?

FIRST   _____BOSS______      LAST _____________

I didn't question the contact information. 

He left the shop and I started immediately into it. As was my standard practice, I used a program called "Diskwarrior" to see if I could diagnose and fix the booting process and then go from there.

Diskwarrior booted the unit fine. I started the Diskwarrior processes. It completed. I restarted the unit. It booted perfectly.

Upon finalizing the boot, several programs/documents were apparently set to launch on startup. A map of a nearby neighborhood popped up that had red dots on it. An excel database popped up with names and phone numbers. A word document with numbers that looked to be balancing a checkbook popped up. I honestly didn't examine it thoroughly, but it was kinda obvious what popped up. It was a narcotics delivery and balance sheet.

I immediately shut down the laptop. I waited a little while then consulted with my colleagues about the situation. We agreed that I would wait 30 more minutes then call him and tell him his computer had been diagnosed and to come back in. I should have followed that exact plan. Instead, being excited that I had fixed the unit in less than 15 minutes and his only charge would be the diagnosis fee - I called him after a little more wait and said ...

"Your computer is fixed."

I was going to add that it was fixed in the process of diagnosis, but I was interrupted with a very loud scream through the phone.

"WHAT!!!!! I told you to diagnose it yo! I told you to diagnose it yo! I said mother[bleep]in' diagnose NOT FIX yo! I'm coming up there!"

I started running all sorts of scenarios through my head. Was he loading bullets into a gun? Was he loading bullets into guns, plural? Was he about to crash his car through the lobby? Should I call 9-1-1?

He arrived. His face was red. He opened the door violently - and if any harder - he'd have ripped it from the hinges like The Terminator after John Connor. He came up to the desk and said,

"Where's my computer yo? I told you to diagnose it yo! That's what I said! You heard me! Diagnose! I didn't say fix! I said call me before you fix it yo! You said, "Yes." I said, "You know what I'm sayin" You said, "Yes" again. What did you do? What DID YOU DO? You fixed it and that's not what I said, you know what I'm sayin'?"

The more he yelled, the more purple his face turned - the more I could see his jugular vein in his neck pulsing.

He continued for another 2-3 minutes - repeating the same thing over and over. All of my colleagues came out. One of my co-workers who was a rather big guy said,

"Look, how about we give you your money back. It looks like the Apple Guy here followed your instructions exactly, it's just that sometimes - the diagnosis fixes a computer. There just wasn't a lot wrong with it. Just something out of place."

He started breathing hard. I could see what looked like the outline of a gun on his hip slightly protruding after each stomach pump from his hard breathing

With not a word further. He put a $50 bill on the table. He stormed out with his laptop like King Kong about to scale the Empire State Building with a girl in his hand.
The End.

More to come soon.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

I bought a DART, But Got TRANKED Powerless By Their Customer Service.

I guess it seemed cool, with a successful kickstarter campaign and all ...

In the original fundraising text on kickstarter, FINSIX promises with the DART ...
"One, tiny Dart. Power for all your devices. 
Perfect for your mobile lifestyle."
 Then there's this gem of jargon ...
"The Dart is the world’s smallest, lightest laptop adapter. At a powerful 65W it is a perfect complement to today’s thin, lightweight, portable laptops. It fits in a pocket and is designed with a USB port and single outlet profile to make it easy for you to stay charged up when you're on the road. We hope you are as excited about the Dart as we are and looking forward to finally carrying just one, tiny Dart to charge all your electronics. Join our campaign and never be stuck powerless again!" 
I admit, I liked the wording. So, when I saw the product at my local Staples and thoroughly examined the box, I was excited. I thought ... "Okay, gonna power me some Macbooks and chrome laptops!"

Why on earth did I think that?

Because FINSIX said so, right on it's box.

Wish it had given the web page listed (below) on the box. It's a HUGE list of incompatible laptops. In fact, there's more that the DART doesn't work on than it does work on. The list of incompatible laptops is so big, they have to make up a new English dictionary entry ... 

This page isn't the "incompatible page", it's the "noncompatible page".

All sides of the DART Box
(click picture to enlarge)
DART Non-compatibility Page 

But here's the real gotcha in that wording .. 


Yes, I read "Check your compatibility at", but I see absolutely no one in a store, besides me EVER, researching products, especially Universal AC adapters that will "power all of your devices - tip compatibility gauranteed." What about senior citizens? Most don't have a smartphone, and the ones that do, don't use them like that - in store. I mean, I'm an IT guy who repairs computers and I admit, I was duped by the awesomeness.

So, I get it home. It doesn't have a USB-C tip. It doesn't have a Macbook tip. It doesn't even have an older iBook tip - like nearly all Universal laptop power supplies do. The Macbook at several points during its sales trajectory has been the number one seller. I can actually understand not including a proprietary tip like the Apple magsafe tip - even though the wording might tell the novice differently. What I don't understand is the USB-C tip - which is common among several brands of computers now.

Let's give FINSIX a pass on Apple adapter tips for a moment. 

What about Chrome laptops?

Nope. The two most common Chromebook laptops are made by Dell and Samsung (which are technically the same) - also no tip included.

So, I decided to send an email to get my tips - because you know - tip compatibility guaranteed right?

I won't bore you with the details, but to make a long story short .. the DART is not the DART-C. So, even though the manufacture date of the AC adapter is rather recent (2017) - the DART doesn't fit laptops released over the last 3 years. There's an entirely different universal AC adapter. So, even with tip compatibility guaranteed, no DART for you! But wait! If you want to fork over an additional $30, DART will ship you a DART-C cord/tip/whatever.

The Macbook? Well, that's interesting! After failing miserably with a customer service guy at DART, I tried for a MacBook Magsafe magnetic tip/adapter. I was certain this would also be a gotcha. To my surprise, I was told that a MAGSAFE 2 tip was available and for the free shipping as promised on the box. That's interesting because Apple didn't license that tip out to anyone (nor did they license out the original Magsafe adapter.) Although the Magsafe adapter was extremely awesome, Apple actually went to USB-C on it's laptops so it could be powered by universal chargers.

So, I got that tip in the mail a week later. I'm happy, but kind of in the way the tree, cut to just a stump, in the book, The Giving Tree is happy.

But guess what! I had bought several DARTs at Staples. So, I asked for another tip - a Samsung Chromebook. Nope. FINSIX/DART wouldn't send it to me. Why? I got a weird message about only powering 18.5 volt to 20 volt laptops. Wait, I thought MIT engineers designed this thing as an AC adapter. Nikola Tesla says AC is better than DC because Alternating Current (AC) is better than Direct Current also known as (DC) For the record, the adapter supports 5V USB connections.

I could pick each one of the above as false statements but I want to focus on one in particular. Most AC adapters within the past two years are pretty small. So I think they could get by with "half the size of most adapters".
Let's go back to that box shall we? "Overvoltage Protection" and my favorite wording - fits all major brands ... Samsung .... Oh! No! No! My favorite wording is from the kickstarter campaign ..

 "At a powerful 65W it is a perfect complement to today’s thin, lightweight, portable laptops

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pinless Debit Transactions ...

For those of you that shop at Walmart and Amazon and use cash back cards or use rebate apps ...

I've discovered something interesting ... Big retailers are switching to "pinless debit transactions" * WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT * for transactions under $50. 

Why does this matter? 

As part of the Dodd-Frank "financial reform" Bill ... credit card companies were forced into (3) scenarios 

1) Chip cards 

2) No signature credit transactions below $50 

3) Transactions can run as a debit transaction if card is a debit card and transaction is under $50.

First, chip cards have been an utter failure. They don't take so long because of slow equipment, but because of all the red tape the transaction has to go through. Your card is encrypted - that encryption has to be read, verified, retransmitted, transmitted again and then sent to your retailer. If you read that like I typed it - you'll see that at one point - unencrypted info is at some point traveling the www. 

What's the point? 

Case study: While moving to Chattanooga last year I had a pretty rough going with my bank, etc transitioning smoothly. I used my wife’s chip card for two months. Her full name is clearly not a man's name. Not once did I sign or get questioned in the dozens of places I used her card. 

What's supposed to be so secure about these cards? I know the technical answer, but it doesn't pan out in the real world. The sole reason chip cards were put into place is tracking and whatever you read otherwise is just subterfuge.

Two, debit cards work privately with your bank. Credit cards work in harmony with your retailer. (And your credit card company is better at what they do) Debit cards cost a retailer 20¢ per transaction. Credit cards (on average) cost a retailer 2% per transaction. It's obvious to see why a retailer would want to force you into a debit transaction. 

And so is the way of all government - Walmart lobbied heavily in the House and Senate to get the little Trojan Horse of pinless debit transactions. Think of a pinless debit as you virtually signing your receipt. Or think of it like I do - a retailer getting to forge your signature so they can save and you can't.

Three. One small convenience is not having to sign for most transactions under $50. Well, that's nice until you realize you are now on the hook for $50 a day if a hooligan or reprobate steals your card or info. This little clause in the law has led to identity thieves stealing volumetric amounts of micro-transactions rather than stealing large sums from 100s. If you can steal 30¢ from millions, why steal $300 from 100s?

All this presents two problems:

1) You don't get cash back because cash back comes from credit card use.

2) You may not get printable receipts which results in loss of receipt submission app rebates. (I.E.,you can use your credit card in any fashion IF you use Walmart Pay. You get your 1.5% back but you don't get a printed receipt NOR WILL WALMART PRINT YOU ONE)

I've tried hard to convert to paying apps rather than swiping my card for security purposes. This is just one of the bumps I've run into.

Hope this clarified some of this for you.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

How can you © copyright something you created, drew, or wrote?

Know, that as an American citizen you are protected by the laws of the land. One of the most comprehensive laws is that governing copyright, trademark, and service mark.

Familiarize yourself with The Lanham Act that allows others fair use of your work. Know that copyright also has to be defended in court if challenged - and that can be an expensive and lengthy battle.

There are two low cost ways to copyright an image or written work:

Print it, or more preferably hand write it/draw it.

Put it in a manilla legal envelope, seal, and mail to yourself from a post office with a certified return receipt. On the receipt put copyrighted © poetry by [your name]

Then ...

Publish it, anywhere, especially online because it will have a timestamp.

Include your name and the © symbol and the current year.

If you regularly publish online or have your own blog, your site is protected by the nature of publishing. You do not have to include a copyright notice but it doesn't hurt if you wish to not be a victim of plagiarism or piracy.

Social media and search engines are actually very responsive to takedown notices if you can prove ownership.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A testimony...

"As for you my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don't know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable. Back where I come from there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds, they are called ... Di uh di uh di uh  ... Good deed doers and their hearts are no bigger than yours. But, they've got one thing that you haven't got - a testimonial .

Therefore, in consideration of your kindness, I take pleasure in giving you a small token of honor, esteem, and affection. 

Remember this my sentimental friend ... A heart is not judged by how much you love, but how much you are loved by others."

~ The Wizard Of Oz

Friday, March 17, 2017

"I think there's a danger in that we seem to only listen to the loudest voices or the articulate voices, because there's lots of humility and subtleness to one's silence or even their shyness. I feel everyone can tell you something. Few can tell you something in small terms or just gestures or even art and it mean something profound or life changing."
~ Jonathan Ive, Chief Design, Apple

Certain tick bites may cause allergies to red meat ...

Fascinating read ...

"A bite from the Lone Star tick can cause people to develop an allergy to red meat, including beef and pork. The Lone Star tick has been implicated in initiating the red meat allergy in the US and this tick is found predominantly in the Southeast from Texas, to Iowa, into New England."

Followup to FYT story about eating Angus Beef:

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Do savings apps and social media pages actually save you money?

Today marks one year trying to see how much money I can save by using my smartphone and social media.

Here's my findings:

None of the following rebates or savings disqualify you from rewards or using other rebate apps/methods or couponing. One app (described below) will occasionally mention that the item cannot be discounted by a coupon printed outside of the store.


IBotta is well worth the effort. As of last night, I had accumulated $531.38 in direct deposits to my PayPal account since March 9, 2016. 

It requires some effort, BUT out of all the apps or other methods I used it has the most healthy options and the most ways to save. I also like that I can use it like a shopping list and verify each purchase with a barcode right in the store while I'm shopping. 

Ibotta offers rebates on healthy (and occasional treat) items that I buy regularly. If these items are also on sale in the Walmart Savings Catcher app, the items can be free or a money maker. I usually make money on the healthy item of the week, especially carrots, cucumber, sweet potato, or banana. 

On the week these items are on sale/rebate - I get one item - to make it a part of a meal or as an ingredient in a dish. Usually the "Healthy Item Of The Week" is just 25¢ but a nice size carrot or a banana isn't even ¼ pound in weight - yield a savings/ money maker even at 25¢. A few times, my other savings apps have yielded the same healthy item of the week - doubling my savings.

At some stores you can link your rewards/bonus cards and savings that you've reviewed and checked in the ibotta app and they are automatically added to your rebate total. Others stores you have to take a full picture of your receipt. Stores that have a QR code (Walmart /Target) at the bottom of the receipt - all you have to do is aim your phone camera at the general direction of the code and it uploads your info. With QR code uploads on ibotta, your rebate is near instantaneous, while linked reward cards can take up to 2 days to appear.

You can "get your money on ibotta" once you've reached $20. You can get the money by PayPal or by popular store gift card via an eCard mailed to your email address. I have always chosen direct to deposit to my PayPal account.

I typically save $10 a week with ibotta

Walmart App:

You have to have the entire Walmart app to use a portion called "savings catcher". With Savings Catcher, you upload your receipt via a quick snap of your QR code at the bottom of the receipt and within 7 days, you receive what their app "finds" in price differences at other stores. 

Note some caveats about this.  The money saved can only be spent at Walmart via gift card or by loading a free American Express you are mailed (if you choose that option)

Also, DO NOT SHOP and plan to use Savings Catcher on a Friday or Saturday. Your app searches over the next three days and sales typically go off over these days so your savings will be less because the app "cleverly checks" stores as their sales expire. 

My typical Savings Catcher savings on a $100 grocery bill is about $2.50 - $4.00. Within the year, I have spent $150 on a grocery trip at Walmart and my savings total was $6.38.

Note that the credit card or the E-gift card you receive your rebates on qualifies you for the 3¢ per gallon discounted gas at Walmart gas stations.

I save about $1.50 a week with savings Catcher but I also do not exclusively grocery shop at Walmart.

MobiSave: no longer available / now Fetch rewards

Although most of the rebates on this app are smaller (10¢ each) ... I like this app the most. Each week, items you'd buy anyway are listed in the rebates section. You check the deals BEFORE you enter the store and upload your receipt with 24 hours via the app. Since MobiSave is a a partner with PayPal, funds, no matter what the amount are automatically added to your PayPal account. Since I use a PayPal card for ALL of my purchases (and get 1.0% back) this is a nice extra bonus. I usually save about $1 a week with this app - which amounts to an additional 1.5% of my grocery bill.

Recently, I purchased some protein enhanced, gluten free spinach and cheese tortellini pasta through this app  and got $1 back + ibotta had a dollar back on the same. The pasta, which creates several meals (even standalone) was at Walmart for $2.48. The Walmart Savings Catcher found it on sale for $1.79 at Publix. The item was a money maker.

I save about $1 a week with MobiSave.


I like this the least of the apps I use regularly because the savings are typically structured like:

Buy $25 in Sargento cheese get $5. You typically have 30 days to build up your money. I'm just not a fan of things that aren't instant. LoL

This app does occasionally have great discounts that can be stacked with store promotions such as Lay's Potato chips, pilsbury products, and Progresso soup. 

The cash out threshold is only $5. 

I typically save about $2 a week with this app

Checkout 51:

This app features 51 items a week to receive discounts/rebates on.

This week I got $1.50 back on Del Monte fruit cups that my daughter eats every morning for breakfast.

This app had Nutella over the summer for $4 back and Walmart had it on sale for $3.88. (I later found out that Nutella sales had dropped because they were purchased by Ferraro who immediately put artificial ingredients in it to bring down costs)

This app has great deals but the cash out is horrible. After building up $20 or more, you get a check mailed to you. I "ordered" a check for $21.75 two weeks ago and got it in the mail yesterday.

I have cashed out $108.75 in a year's time with this app.

This app occasionally will mention that you cannot use other physical coupons to get the rebate.

The only other caveat about this app - it is run directly by a marketing company and your receipt is sold to third parties (without your personally identifying information attached) - this bothers me a bit.

This brings me to coupons dot com. 

Absolutely do NOT use this app, the website, or anyone that partners with them to print coupons.

This MARKETING COMPANY actually steals your personal identification information and sells it. 

I did an experiment with coupons dot com. I noticed that I was getting telemarketing calls to my cellphone in the following days after using coupons dot com each time I used it. So, I hooked a house phone up to my DSL line and put that number as "my verification phone #" to receive my coupons. Sure enough, the next day my phone rang - a telemarketing call about cruises, then another about listing my business with google. This would be okay with me if I knew they were doing this BUT, the fine print under the box you enter your phone number says (quoted) "We will not use your number for any other purpose and will not sell your number to a third party."

Using coupons dot com will also affect the coupons (that may be better) that will print for you at the register of some stores.

Using this method of couponing is very, very tempting, but trust me, it's too risky.

I had to stop following the Facebook page Krazy Coupon Lady after she personally responded on one of my posts about using airline credit cards to get discounts on airfare. She was lying in her post (that was sponsored by Southwest may I add) and I caught her. She insisted in several posts she was correct. I copied and pasted from the southwest website and she still denied me and said I was wrong. So, I called southwest, recorded the phone call, used the customer service call to transcribe a message on my iPhone and copied and pasted the phone conversation to the thread. She STILL said I was wrong and that if you signed up (using her link) you would get 2 free airline tickets to anywhere in the country for free. Anyway.  Caveat Emptor - don't believe everything you read on Facebook or the internet or anywhere.


For my online shopping, I run everything through my MyPoints account. This portal gives you between 2% and 15% back on most every purchase from most every website.

I often go through MyPoints to go to RAISE dot com where I buy discounted gift cards. MyPoints gives you an additional 2% back on gift cards purchased there. I go to RAISE to get Walmart and Lowes eGift cards that I can use immediately after purchase. I get 1.5% back using my rewards MasterCard. Sometimes I can order online, using my discounted eGift card, going back through MyPoints and save again.

Last year I cashed out $250 in gift cards on MyPoints - paying for about half of my Christmas gifts.

This may shock you, but in all, I have received $27,000+ in total benefits MYPOINTS in the 15 years I've been a member.

If you are popular on social media or have a big friend circle, most all of these methods offer referral bonuses. You could get $100 or so by the end of the month like I did when I first signed up for these apps/website portals.

If you have any questions about couponing or discount apps, I'll try to answer them or get you the answers.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The 7 Types Of Friends You Need ...

The 7 Types Of Friends You Need ...

It's healthy to have a handful of best friends with different perspectives.

Here are the 7 types of friends you need.

1) Friends who make the effort.

I have one friend who, although he is swamped with his career, never fails to reach out via text, email or phone every few days, no matter what else is going on. Even if it’s simply something succinct — like “just wanted to touch base and say hi” — I truly appreciate these signals that I’m being thought about and that our friendship is important. 

2) Friends that are forgiving.

I also appreciate a friend who is forgiving. I’m not saying that someone should forgive offenses quickly; or superficially. It takes time to forgive. But if too much time is taken, bad feelings fester, and the friendship may never get back on track. No one is perfect and a true friend will understand that.

2) Friends who are genuinely happy for me when something good happens.

I’m fortunate enough to have at least a few friends who are sincerely and openly happy for me when something nice occurs. (You’re probably wondering ... shouldn’t every kind of friend be happy for others? You’d think so, but that’s not always the case.) Friends who are genuinely happy don't exhibit jealously. They are truly thrilled about my accomplishments. They watch and revel in my glory - without any inkling of bitterness - and I do the same for them. Friendship is a two-way street.

3) Friends who are upbeat.

You know the opposite of this type. Some among us ruminate over every little problem in their life again and again (I occasionally rut). The difference is making at least one move to change a situation. Debbie Downers are contagious. They bring me down. Misery loves company and downbeat friends generally are more interested in your bad news than your good news. People who are positive and motivated and optimistic (but not not superficial) and who lift up those around them are worth hanging on to. I have one friend who never fails to compliment me on something — even if it’s just “wow, are you still running? You look great!”

4) Friends who are up for anything.

I have friend who loves adventure and who has a daughter that is the very definition of genius. With genius and adventure comes curiosity. Since I run a town news source, I occasionally get bizarre photos and stories submitted for consideration. One day, I had a picture submitted to me through Facebook message of flaming meteorite that had crashed into a nearby field - a picture by happenstance while photographing the nearby mountain range at sunset. I texted this friend and the next day we were out looking for a crashed UFO or other curiosity in that field. It was fun. Nothing turned up but my dog loved it. I loved it. My friend and her daughter loved it.

5) Friends who are authentic.

This is the steadfast friend who is anything but pretentious — the one who’s not afraid to see you without any constraint. They're not ashamed to showing you their true self — or seeing yours. They're “real” and honest and will tell you the truth when asked their opinion. When your behavior is questionable, there is a fine line between expressing concern and expressing judgement. A true friend will tell you the truth — and will let you know they’ll always be on your side no matter what decision you make even if, in their opinion, it’s the wrong one. 

6) A friend that holds you accountable

A friend that holds you accountable is a friend indeed. Sometimes we need an extra angel on the other shoulder. This isn't the type of friend that judges you; it's the type that you consider to be wise in their path; successful because they've made good decisions.

This type of friend should pray for you and with you about your discernment of people and situations. 

7) A friend that's as passionate about your hobbies and interests as you are.

Be it hunting, sewing, creating crafts, technology and gadget interests - or politics. Someone that can inspire ideas or encourage you in something you enjoy, simply by discussing it with you, laughing with you, is a huge help in your path to happiness.